Republicans may love to hate take-no-prisoners campaigners like James Carville and Bob Shrum. But more often, behind the scenes, especially during the Clinton scandals, the rank and file Republican complaint was, “Where are our tough guys?” We wanted somebody who could bite and scratch and claw, too. Lee Atwater had died in 1991. Newt Gingrich was in eclipse. Like a fabulous garage entrepreneur, he had won the House of Representatives in 1994, then proved unable to run the company.
There’s a young guy in Massachusetts who may fill the bill. He’s 29 years old, his name is Ian Bayne, and his avowed goal is to elect Republican majorities in the Massachusetts Great and General Court (what they call the legislature in the Commonwealth). “And by God, we’re going to do it,” he promises on his website.
In Bayne’s view, the Massachusetts Republican Party has been controlled too long by a punchy, self-satisfied in-crowd that has not only forgotten how to win, it has forgotten how to compete. The party fielded candidates in only 78 out of 200 races in 2002, Bayne points out.
“If (Massachusetts Republican national committeeman) Ron Kaufman thinks that half a million Republicans don’t want a candidate against (U.S. Senator) John Kerry, he’s nuts. If he can’t pull a warm body to run against John Kerry, then maybe he ought to move aside.” (Kerry ran unopposed in 2002.)
Bayne began working for Republican candidates in the 1998 campaign for selectman in North Andover, an election that vaulted 20-year-old Jim Xenakis to national attention. (See “The Youngest Republican: ‘Hey, There’s Jim.'”) With his ability to formulate pithy statements, his ready aggressiveness, and his ability to recruit and inspire candidates, Bayne came to the attention of party officials — and of people with money. The result: Bayne founded a PAC called the Massachusetts Republican Society in 1999. Eventually, the MRS was raising about $100,000 a year, and had helped the GOP win eight local races, according to Bayne.
But Bayne chafed at party restrictions and party protocol — pretty stodgy in Massachusetts, as he tells it.
“We had some disputes with the higher echelons of the GOP,” he says wryly. “Some people saw us as threat to their way of life.”
The GOP in-crowd crossed over the line with Bayne when the state committee looked like it was determined to run acting Governor Jane Swift for a term of her own. In her brief tenure filling in after Paul Celluci left for an ambassadorship, Swift had done the near-impossible, managing to look like an idiot both at home and in visits to Washington. Then she announced her choice of running mate, openly gay former Melrose state rep. Patrick C. Guerriero. A picture of the two of them, vacant grins on their faces, looking like earnest grads of the Episcopal Divinity School, sealed Swift’s fate. It was Dukakis in a tank all over again, but from the other side.
Ian Bayne dissolved his GOP-sponsored PAC and started the independent November Coalition. And the Coalition’s first accomplishment was drafting Mitt Romney to run for governor. Calls to local politicians confirm that that movement started with Bayne (“He was the one who called me”). And it ended, of course, with a stunning GOP victory in the race for Governor, with Romney defeating State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien by six percentage points.
Bayne’s motivation is simple, and so are his tactics.
“First thing, and it’s a dummy statement, we’ve got to put someone in every single race.
“Second, tell people the truth. You go to someone who’s living in Mattapan who might run against the speaker (of the House). You tell him he’s not going to win, but he is going to be part of a massive effort. The biggest problem finding and motivating candidates is that they don’t feel like they’re part of a team.”
In Bayne’s view, the state GOP establishment has been “more worried about a younger person taking their place than moving the Republican party in right direction.”
November Coalition airs a weekly radio broadcast, a kind of electronic position paper, then distributes copies to Bayne’s extensive e-mail and phone list of activists. On the website itself, he provides a weekly briefing on issues, and pulls no punches. The Coalition itself, he says, consists of two dozen or so energetic young Republicans, most in their twenties, poised to lead the party in Massachusetts in the near future. In his typical machine-gun fashion, Bayne reels off names: Michael Horrigan of Framingham, Monica Madeiros on the state committee, Bill Rivers, Fitchburg city counselor Rick LaPointe, statehouse staffer Greg Glennon[*], entrepreneur Pat O’Conner.
Ian Bayne has proved himself a king-maker once, in a big way, with the move to draft Mitt Romney. He can talk, he can motivate, and he can raise money.